Me and my Shadow: An Obsession

The Shadow.

For more than half my life, this character has been a part of me. Everywhere I go in life, he has gone, too. Even the dark time of my life, many years ago, when a string of heartbreaks forced me into my shell. The Shadow was still there, even if I thought I’d forgotten him: the pulps and reprints and comics peeking out from my book shelves, the stern gaze from his bust gazing down from across the room.

The Shadow bust

Some people have music, others turn to T.V. shows or movies when life beats on them. I have The Shadow. It’s weird how much a fictional character or universe can mean to someone, but I’ve discovered that the web is full of people like me, who have found comfort with
their fandom, whether it’s with Star Wars or the Muppets or Sherlock Holmes or whatever. And while there have been times that my interests would switch over to another character (Doc Savage or Batman, just to name two), it always has (and always will) come back to The Shadow.

But it hasn’t always been that way…


Picture me, a little Dummy of 4 years of age (with a very active, vivid imagination) in the summer of 1978. I know it was summer because I remember what I was wearing- a yellow tank-top and cutoff shorts. My parents and I were visiting my grandmother, always on the lookout for antiques and old things. The radio-show on tape revival was in full swing, and she had just bought a handful of cassettes. We sat down in her living room, and as she prepared the first tape, my parents explained to me that “this is what people did for fun before T.V. was invented.”

As I said, I had an overactive imagination. What happened next is laser-etched in my brain.

The music burbled up, a dark rendition of Camille St. Saens’ “Omphale’s Spinning Wheel”, and it called to my mind a dark image of a zeppelin flying through stormy clouds at night. Then of course came the classic sinister laugh and the famous “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”, then more laughter.

I bolted from my chair and ran to the other end of the house. The experience actually scared me, and for a long time, I heard the name of The Shadow with a little bit of trepidation.

Fast forward now to my 12th year. I’m in line with my mother at a drug-store. I look upon a rack of radio-show cassettes and there he is. Finally, a face to put with the voice, the memory. A glaring man with a hawk-like nose, staring out at me from between a black slouch hat and upturned collar of a black cloak.

In curiousity, I took down the package and read the back of it. This guy, this evil sounding, evil looking character is a good guy? It was strange, and I was intrigued.

I didn’t buy that tape, but I did ask my grandmother if I could borrow her radio tapes. She hadn’t heard them in years, so she gave me all of them: Abbot and Costello, Sorry Wrong Number, Inner Sanctum… and The Shadow.

Thus, the circle was complete. The show that scared me as a young child began my experience with the first and most lasting hobby I have had, and will ever have. The Shadow has become my companion, as embarrassing as it sounds, and he’ll always be with me.

(An interesting epilogue: For years I have been embarrassed to tell the story of how The Shadow scared me when I was young. It makes me sound like a wuss.

But something I read recently made me “come out of the closet” about this.

The first Shadow I ever heard was an early one starring Orson Welles (“Death From The Deep”). Like all the other Welles episodes, the opening and closing was not performed by him. Rather, recordings were used of Frank Readick, Jr.’s performance from when The Shadow hosted “Street and Smith’s Detective Story Hour”.

Readick’s performance received negative publicity back in the 30’s because radio listeners would complain that their dogs would howl when the famous lines were performed… and many young children became frightened at the sound of Readick’s laugh. I realized then was that I was not alone, and was kind of carrying on a tradition.)

The Shadow knows...

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Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey, you have a brother-in-Shadow right here, man.

    ALSO: Batman.

    Seriously, though, is there anyone that likes one of the two characters that DOESN’T like the other?

  2. This site is a Gem! It’s great that folks out there are still really appreciating the pulps. My story is similar to yours in that I encountered the Shadow tapes as part of a Horror set that was put out. Ah…dear old Blue Coal!
    For reading, I actually prefer the SPIDER to the Shadow…that’s some pulse-pounding reading!
    Anyway, the whole thing inspired me to create my own pulp hero, the Revenant, and I’ve got a webcomic up for him called “Tales of the Revenant”. I think you’d enjoy it!
    Thanks again for the great site!

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Dave. I love your comic and have linked my site to it, by the way. I just haven’t gotten around to leaving feedback for you! (Procrastinate? Who me? Never! 🙂 )

  4. Woah, I just now saw that link! Thanks, Don! Don’t feel bad about the feedback…as long as you’re enjoying the strip, that’s what matters!
    I was also admiring your Shadow statue! I need ta gets me one of those! I’m not sure if you’ve seen the Revenant sculpt…I’ve got a picture up on my blog: http://hauntedrevenant.blogspot.com/

    -Cheers!

    Dave

  5. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  6. Sign: zdbrw Hello!!! gvquf and 4765nsqamgbtpp and 9629 : I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz its really helpful.


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